Week 3 matchups: Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Friday, September 21st, 2012
By Travis Boariu
Steelers Fever Columnist
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-2)
All-time series: 10-9 (Oakland)
Last meeting: 2010. Heinz Field. Raiders 3 at Steelers 35
Last meeting in Oakland: 2006. Steelers 13 at Raiders 20
Week 3 marks the 20th meeting between these two historic franchise's. Once a hated rivalry back in the 1970's, the Steelers (1-1) travel to Oakland to take on the 0-2 Raiders. In week 2, Pittsburgh bounced back after a week 1 loss at Denver to beat the N.Y Jets 27-10 at Heinz Field. Oakland on the other hand, dropped 2 straight with a week 1 loss to the San Diego Chargers at the Coliseum (22-14) and a gut-wrenching loss in week 2 at the Miami Dolphins (35-13.)
KEY MATCHUP: ILB Lawrence Timmons vs RB Darren McFadden.
After watching what Oakland has to offer in the first two weeks, it seems as if the Raiders offense goes as far as Darren McFadden will take them. Not only is he their feature back, but he is Carson Palmer's main checkdown guy in a very lethargic offensive attack. I expect Lawrence Timmons to shadow McFadden all over the field Sunday and keep a close eye in not only the backfield, but once he releases as well. Oakland loves to check-down in the flats and get McFadden involved early and often to try and create one on one mis-match's with the linebackers. Timmons is practically the only Steelers defender on the field that can match-up one on one with a versatile back like McFadden, so keep an eye on this matchup throughout the football game as it could be the key to success for the Steelers defense.
ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK.
The Steelers offense seems to be running in unorthodox-mode recently. It's no secret that 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wants to flex the offense's muscles and slam the no-huddle down the opponents throat every week. Already vocal about it, Ben mentioned Coach Mike Tomlin approaching him at halftime about utilizing the no-huddle, but nothing was unleashed.The Steelers used the majority of their no huddle week 1 at Denver in a hostile environment so it's only unorthodox to feature the no-huddle attack on the road (intangibles like communication, play-calling and audibles at the line of scrimmage) as opposed to busting it out at home where the crowd noise is practically non-existent. Still, I'm a firm believer in Todd Haley's week to week approach in attacking the weakness of the defense so I'm curious to see if we go back to the same formula we used in week 1 and let Ben control the offense in more of a general-like manor VS lining it up and game managing. Keeping the defense off guard and on their toes on the road has been the missing formula the past few seasons in how the Steelers approached their attack.
Play-Action on First Down.
Last week, Reggie Bush and the Miami Dolphins ground game bruised and abused Oakland's defensive front. With the Steelers emphasizing to be more of a balanced football team, starting with the run (Pittsburgh 30th in rushing; Oakland 31st) I expect the Raiders to load the box with 9 defenders and challenge themselves to be physical at the point of attack. The Steelers first down percentages on the ground aren't groundbreaking, pathetic to say the least. We have been losing the 1st and 2nd down battle convincingly (3rd and Ben anyone?) so look for the Steelers to start mixing it up on 1st down and taking advantage of their prior gameplans on film and using more play-action pass's to counter what could be an overload of Raiders run-blitz's.
What the Raiders might look for: Carson Palmer VS Ryan Mundy.
If anybody didn't noticed, in 2011 the Raiders gave up a very high draft pick to go out and snag former Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer off the Free Agent market to come in and lead their franchise. If there was any quarterback in the NFL that is familiar with Dick LeBeau's famous disguise's and confusing looks at the line of scrimmage, it's Carson Palmer, who has faced Pittsburgh twice a year when he resided in the nastiness of the AFC NORTH during the better-half of his career. Without Troy Polamalu stalking his every move, I wouldn't be surprise to see Oakland take a few shots downfield if Mundy is responsible in protecting the back-end of the Steelers defense. Ryan Clark's presence will be felt, but Oakland will try to find #29 in coverage. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the Steelers defense has had Palmer's number since the QB came out of the University of South Carolina in 2003.
When the schedule was first announced, I immediately pointed to the week 3 matchup at Oakland and didn't like it. Not only do we have the privilege of flying coast to coast, but "The Black Hole" boasts as one of the most hostile and intimidating stadiums to step foot in. Even though the Raiders haven't been consistently competitive in quite some time, it's always tough traveling to Oakland and dealing with crowd-noise (not to mention the sinister fans themselves.)
If we can somehow overcome the dark environment (it won't be easy) then we could very well be 2-1 heading into our much needed BYE WEEK.
HERE WE GO STEELERS!